The Evolution of Jazz in Britain, 1880-1935.
Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series.
As a popular music, the evolution of jazz is tied to the contemporary sociological situation. Jazz was brought from America into a very different environment in Britain and resulted in the establishment of parallel worlds of jazz by the end of the 1920s: within the realms of institutionalized culture and within the subversive underworld. Parsonage demonstrates the importance of image and racial stereotyping in shaping perceptions of jazz, and leads to the significant conclusion that the evolution of jazz in Britain was so much more than merely an extension or reflection of that in America.
The book examines the cultural and musical antecedents of the genre, including minstrel shows and black musical theatre, within the context of musical life in Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Parsonage is particularly concerned with the public perception of jazz in Britain and provides close analysis of the early European critical writing on the subject. The processes through which an evolution took place are considered by looking at the methods of introducing jazz in Britain, through imported revue shows, sheet music, and visits by American musicians. Subsequent developments are analysed through the consideration of modernism and the Jazz Age as theoretical constructs and through the detailed study of dance music on the BBC and jazz in the underworld of London. The book concludes in the 1930s by which time the availability of records enabled the spread of 'hot' music, affecting the live repertoire in Britain.
Parsonage therefore sheds entirely new light on the development of jazz in Britain, and provides a deep social and cultural understanding of the early history of the genre.
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